NSW cane farmers fight back

WHILE Queensland sugar growers count the damage to their crops from cyclones and floods, New South Wales growers are experiencing one of their best years in a decade.

Veteran canegrower and NSW Canegrowers Association president Vince Castle rated the current season a 9.8 out of 10.

He said the past few years had been good, with a rating of about nine out of 10, but the current season had been close to perfect.

“This has been a good growing season ... as good as any in the past 10 years,” he said.

But despite problems experienced in Queensland, Mr Castle did not expect to see any increase in prices for the NSW crop.

“The losses wouldn’t be big enough,” he said.

It’s not just the growing season looking sweet for the sugar industry at the moment; international sugar prices, which set the price for NSW producers, are also strong.

“The price has been pretty good,” Mr Castle said.

“It has come back a bit in the past couple of weeks to about 20 (US) cents a pound and we’d like it to stay at about 15-20 cents.

“It could go up and down a bit, but I think it will hover around that figure.”

Mr Castle said the industry also appeared to be making some headway with financial problems that had plagued the operations of cogeneration facilities at Broadwater and Condong.

The sugar milling co-operative had based its financial calculations on 50 cents for each renewable energy certificate (REC), but when the Federal Government released bulk RECs onto the market, the price plummeted to just over 20 cents.

The Government has now agreed to segregate the REC market and since that decision the price has risen to more than 40 cents. That decision will take effect in January next year.

Last season there was so much trash in material destined for the cogeneration facilities that the mills had difficulty extracting all the sugar from the crop. New methods are now being trialled that might alleviate some of that problem. That included mixing some burnt cane with green cane to reduce the overall percentage of trash.



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